Typing on a computer keyboard Photo courtesy of Adikos

Santa Clarita Valley students will be trading in their pencils for keyboards on their standardized tests this year. One of the key reasons for this transition is to help students become more familiar using QWERTY-standard keyboards. While most students are digital natives with access to computer technology since early childhood, their reliance on texting through smartphones and tablets has had noted detrimental effects on computer keyboard proficiency.

The upcoming Smarter Balanced standardized assessments align with the Common Core State Standards benchmarks and will cover mathematics, English, and literacy. Unlike the paper-based assessments which were primarily assessed through multiple choice, students will be required to type out their responses in order to demonstrate their understanding of test content.

The goal of the Smarter Balanced assessments is to prepare students for post-secondary education and the workforce, areas where proficient typing is a requisite competency. While the change in format may be perceived as a challenge for many students, the Smarter Balanced tests are designed so that students should not be put at a disadvantage based on their typing skills. The level of typing proficiency required on the tests will not interfere with students’ comprehension of the content. As explained by administrators, it is the subject comprehension that the Smarter Balanced tests are evaluating, not typing ability.

Schools in the Santa Clarita Valley have begun preparing their students for the Smarter Balanced assessments by providing practice tests and typing exercises in the classroom. Since the Smarter Balanced tests are more closely aligned to classroom lessons than the previous multiple-choice assessments, teachers feel they able to more effectively prepare their students for the content.

Administrators and educators in the Santa Clarita Valley are looking forward to the Smarter Balanced assessments, but recognize it will take a few years to acclimate from paper to computer-based testing. While students may have initial apprehensions of the Smarter Balanced test, the emphasis on testing student comprehension of authentic classroom content and introducing them to computer-based tests will better prepare them for the future.

Read more:

About the Author: Dustin is a senior account manager with DesignedUX, providing communications and strategy to organizations in education and technology. Dustin is also board member of the Canadian Public Relations Society and contributes as a communications researcher with McMaster University.